Gulfstream Park offers a nice second half of races on Saturday's, especially with most of the synthetic action pulled back to the front of the card.
The two Florida-bred stakes races being run later in the card are the $75,000 Sunshine Classic Stakes and $75,000 Sunshine Sprint Stakes. One race before the Sunshine Sprint is an intriguing allowance optional claimer with stakes quality horses such as Vindictive and Olympiad.
Here are selections for the Sunshine Classic and a pick 3 ending in the Sunshine Sprint.
Gulfstream Race 6: Sunshine Classic Stakes
Shamrocket enters this race without any dirt experience and the pace works against his style, but the field is weak enough to choose him.
Whenever a horse tries a new distance or surface, pedigree matters. In Shamrocket’s case, his second dam Nany’s Sweep spent her career as a dirt horse who won the 2001 Santa Monica Handicap (G1) among other races. Shamrocket’s sire Tonalist won the 2014 Belmont Stakes, the 2014 and 2015 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the 2015 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1).
On Jan. 8, Shamrocket worked on even terms with Fearless. The two Todd Pletcher-trained runners went four furlongs in an easy 50.04 on dirt.
Shamrocket is the choice. The pace looks slow and against his style, but classier horses can overcome a poor pace scenario. It does not hurt that most of the horses entered here look questionable to last nine furlongs.
For value underneath, think about using Glory of Florida. He might pick off enough horses once the speed horses start to struggle with the distance.
Top selection: No. 3 Shamrocket (6/5)
Underneath: No. 7 Glory of Florida (9/2)
Win: 3 (at even money or higher only)
Exacta: 3 / 7
Gulfstream Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming
In terms of class, Proven Strategies is the best horse.
Prior to hitting the shelf last year, Proven Strategies contested the pace in the Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth before finishing second to a good Chad Brown-trained runner in Value Proposition. Proven Strategies also ran a closing third in the Connaught Cup (G3) at Woodbine. The winner Avie’s Flatter won the Nearctic Stakes (G2) a few starts later, while the runner-up Olympic Runner won the King Edward Stakes (G2) in his next start.
Proven Strategies enters this race as a new gelding too. If he can handle the 133-day layoff for trainer Mark Casse, then he is a major contender.
The first start off the bench is always a question though and he might face a harsh pace scenario if Winfromwithin is sent to the front along the inside. If Proven Strategies fails to fire off the break, the race is wide open.
Consider also throwing in Journeyman, Mira Mission, Absam and Vow Me Now.
Top selection: No. 3 Proven Strategies (3-1)
Contenders: No. 4 Journeyman (5-1), No. 5 Mira Mission (4-1), No. 6 Absam (6-1)
Live longshot: No. 10 Vow Me Now (12-1)
Pick 3: 3,4,5,6,10 / 2,5 / 1,2,5,7
Gulfstream Race 9: Allowance Optional Claiming
Olympiad received a puzzling ride from Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Cigar Mile.
After initially running in an outside stalking position close to the front, Olympiad began to lose contact with the leaders while approaching the turn with almost no urging from Ortiz. Olympiad fell back to sixth and at least 4 ½ lengths behind at the top of the stretch. When Ortiz finally hit Olympiad in midstretch though, he started to rally forward and eventually made up enough ground to pick up fourth by a neck.
Ortiz had a tough day where the racing social media criticized him for being too aggressive, but in this instance, he was overly conservative.
Jockey Junior Alvarado takes the mount this time for trainer Bill Mott.
Olympiad needs to stretch out to a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time, but that is not likely a problem for this son of Speightstown out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Tokyo Time. For what it is worth, Tokyo Time is a half-sister to Hungry Island, who won the 2011 Lake Placid Stakes (G2) at nine furlongs. Seeing A.P. Indy on the dam side also adds to the stamina blood.
The 2-1 morning line favorite Vindictive is a nice horse, but he wants to run nine furlongs or farther. His only two wins in five starts came at nine furlongs, and even his recent third-place finish at nine furlongs in the Discovery Stakes against Miles D and Speaker’s Corner looks like his best race to date.
For a second option, consider the longshot Capocostello, who makes his debut in North America for the familiar trainer Fausto Gutierrez. As most racing fans know, Gutierrez is the trainer of the star mare Letruska.
Capocostello shows an incredible 15-11-3-1 record in Panama.
Top selection: No. 5 Olympiad (5/2)
Live longshot: No. 2 Capocostello (12-1)
Gulfstream Race 10: Sunshine Sprint Stakes
If Cool Quest and Boca Boy battle early, it should set up a fast pace.
But whether the pace is fast or not, Cool Quest remains dangerous based on his 8 ½-length maiden win at Churchill Downs last September and his recent local optional claiming against Florida-breds on Dec. 12.
Gatsby looks appealing based off his recent second-place finish to former Grade 1 winner Drain the Clock in a local optional claimer. Gatsby only lost by half a length to Drain the Clock, although Drain the Clock came off a layoff and possibly needed the race.
Also think about Legal Deal, who is supposed to sit in a beautiful outside position right behind Cool Quest and Boca Boy. In his most recent start, Legal Deal set the pace before finishing second in a local Starter Stakes.
A fourth option is Pudding, who is expected to sit in a midpack position. He ran third in the same Dec. 4 Starter Stakes that Legal Deal competed in.
Top selection: No. 1 Cool Quest (4-1)
Contenders: No. 2 Pudding (3-1), No. 5 Gatsby (7/2), No. 7 Legal Deal (5/2)